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What is a Drug & Alcohol Counselor?

A Drug & Alcohol Counselor is a specialized type of Counselor. Also known as: Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselor, Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, Addictions Counselor, Chemical Dependency Counselor, Substance Abuse Counselor, Drug and Alcohol Counsellor, Drug and Alcohol Counselor.

A drug & alcohol counselor is a trained professional who works with addicts to help them better understand and overcome their addictions. Drug abuse is an epidemic all over the world. Many of those who face a daily struggle with addiction eventually seek out help.

It is the drug & alcohol counselor's job to provide the assistance these people need to overcome their destructive behaviour. Counselors help by offering support, rehabilitation and guidance. Using various techniques, drug & alcohol counselors seek to help an addict find the root cause of their problem. This often helps the addict to have a breakthrough, which can be a positive step on their road to recovery.

What does a Drug & Alcohol Counselor do?

Drug & alcohol counselors treat addicts either one on one, or in group settings. They educate and develop treatment plans for addicts to help them better cope with their addictive personalities. Periodically, counselors will do an assessment to determine how much progress has been made towards recovery.

Typically, counselors work within a rigid program structure as determined by their employer. These programs are often implemented by facility managers and chiefs of staff. For example, the twelve step program may be used to treat alcohol addiction at a particular hospital or treatment facility where a counselor is employed.

Counselors seek to find what triggers an addict's behaviour in order to help them eliminate such triggers from their life. They take detailed notes which helps to form a better understanding of each person's unique situation. They ask appropriate questions and offer advice as to which approach is best for treating a particular problem. A drug & alcohol counselor is trained to recognize attitudinal barriers which may inhibit a person's ability to successfully overcome their addiction. They then work to help addicts remove those barriers.

Drug & abuse counselors also teach the addict how to best prevent a relapse. They do this by developing a strategy to help the person manage their problems in the best way possible. Helping them to understand the signs and symptoms of their addictive behaviour can often prevent an addict from experiencing a total relapse. Ultimately, the goal is to find a course of treatment which will enable a person to finally break free from a destructive pattern and get on with their life.

Counselors also work to increase awareness of drug problems. This often involves writing articles for local newspapers, magazines or blogs, as well as speaking to community groups. Conducting drug education workshops and community outreach programs help to provide information to those who may be reluctant about seeking treatment.

What is the workplace of a Drug & Alcohol Counselor like?

A drug & alcohol counselor works in a variety of settings. Institutionalized settings are very common. These include prisons, hospitals, halfway houses, and drug treatment centres. While private sector work is readily available, many drug & alcohol counselors work for the government through health departments and welfare agencies.

How can I become a Drug & Alcohol Counselor?

To be a successful drug & alcohol counselor, you must possess a great deal of empathy for those whom you are trying to help. This is a job where you will be trying to save lives. The majority of people addicted to alcohol or drugs also have mental and behavioural problems which need to be addressed. This can often make effective treatment all the more difficult.

The job can be very frustrating, as many people who receive treatment eventually relapse. High caseloads are also common, particularly for counselors that work in government. Long work hours and relatively low pay help to further make career burnout a common problem.

To do this job well, you have to love working with and helping people. You have to be willing to effectively communicate with people and work tirelessly on their behalf. As a result of your hard work, many addicts will be able to reclaim their lives and finally overcome their addictions. While it can be a tough job, it can be a rewarding one as well.

The majority of drug and alcohol counselors have either a bachelors or masters degree. More often than not, it is required that a licensed counselor have a masters degree in either social work or psychology.

Many states require that a drug & alcohol counselor either be licensed or certified. Federal and state agencies often require certification, while private treatment facilities may not. Certification typically involves completing an educational program followed by hundreds of hours of supervised work. As such, certification can take years to complete. Licensure is awarded by states to counselors who've completed advanced degrees.



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Further Reading

  • Substance Abuse Counselor

    Donna Mae Depola’s story comes from a place of trauma, abuse, broken trust, and substance abuse. It is a story of coming from rock bottom to a tale of victory and success.

  • Substance Abuse Counselor Overcomes Grief And Age Discrimination

    In this interview with a substance abuse counsellor, she shares how she has overcome overwhelming grief at the loss of her mother that changed her career path and lead her to this rewarding field.

  • How To Be A Good AOD Counselor

    Becoming an AOD counselor can be rewarding and fulfilling, yet sometimes stressful and frustrating. To be a good AOD counselor, you should have the right personality and possess specific skills and traits.

  • Drug Rehab Counselor

    In the process of rehabilitation and recovery, a drug rehab counselor can often make the difference between an individual’s failure and success.

  • A Working Life: The Addiction Counsellor

    Addiction counsellor Richard Kingdon works with City clients in a world where it's acceptable to drink heavily or take drugs – but not to seek professional help.

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